Hundreds of millions of nanoparticles could fit in the space used to write this sentence, a notion that keeps C. Shad Thaxton, MD ’04, PhD ’07, assistant professor of urology, intrigued by their application in medicine.
In working to develop a synthetic form of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the carrier of “good cholesterol,” Thaxton seeks to prevent or perhaps reverse the buildup of “bad cholesterol” in the walls of the arteries—often a precursor to heart disease.
Thaxton will be the featured speaker at a nanotechnology town hall meeting on Wednesday, February 29, on the University’s Evanston campus.
In his talk, “Manipulating Cholesterol with Nanoparticles: Implications for Heart Disease and Cancer,” Thaxton will focus on how cholesterol metabolism impacts the development of heart disease and influences the growth of some cancers. He will be highlighting a nanomaterials platform developed in his lab that may provide new therapeutic opportunities for the two biggest health risks in America.
Nanotechnology is based on building structures and materials with novel properties that can be made to solve difficult scientific and technical problems. Bulk materials miniaturized to the nanometer scale (a nanometer is one billionth of a meter) often have properties that present new opportunities in biomedicine.
Thaxton, who joined the faculty full time in 2008, said three Northwestern institutions are helping lead the way in nanotechnology: the International Institute for Nanotechnology (IIN), the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute (CLP), and the Institute for BioNanotechnology in Medicine (IBNAM).
“Collectively, these demonstrate the early and sustained successes of talented faculty members in nanotechnology research, the early commitment and funding of the nanotechnology enterprise at Northwestern, and the developed infrastructure available to do world-class nanoscience,” he said. “Nanotechnology is far-reaching with potential applications in medicine, optics, electronics, computing, energy, national security, transportation, and beyond. As such, while confined to the nanometer length scale, nanotechnology is boundless with regard to application and impact.”
Recently it was Samuel Stupp, PhD, professor in medicine and director of IBNAM, and his work with functional suprapolymers that put Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in the news.
His research is part of an emerging field focused on using functional supramolecular polymers to unlock previously unknown functions of materials. A review article published in the Feb. 16 issue of the journal Science details the field and highlights some of the key developments made in the past decade.
“This field shows great promise for designing new materials, including highly sustainable forms of materials and highly bioactive materials, for medicine, renewable energy and sustainability,” said Stupp.
Recent discoveries from Stupp’s lab include a novel nanostructure that promotes the growth of new blood vessels, an injectable gel that promotes the growth of new cartilage, and gel “strings” of aligned supramolecular polymers that could be surgically placed to repair tissues such as the heart and the brain.
“Similar to these examples of translational nanoscience, much of my talk on Wednesday will focus on the development and characterization of a unique nanomaterial platform that we are applying to heart disease and cancer,” Thaxton said.
Nanotechnology Town Hall Meeting
WHEN: The talk and discussion will take place from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. with a reception to follow on Wednesday, February 29
FEATURING: C. Shad Thaxton, MD, PhD, professor of urology, and his talk: “Manipulating Cholesterol with Nanoparticles: Implications for Heart Disease and Cancer”
WHERE: Abbott Auditorium, Pancoe Building, Evanston campus, 2200 Campus Drive
COST and REGISTRATION: There is no charge for attendance, but advance registration is required. Register online or by calling (847) 467-4862.